Five youth teams vie for titles, led by Inverness' Senior Softball All-Stars.
By CAREY FREEMAN
© St. Petersburg Times, published July 21, 2000
INVERNESS -- This is the time of year when Pete Maggiore normally would be boasting about the prowess of his team and the success of Inverness Little League in the softball world.
Instead Maggiore is reserved. In the words of the Inverness Senior All-Stars manager himself, "there is good reason."
"The plot is always thickening," Maggiore said, days before his team was to compete at the Section I tournament in DeFuniak Springs. "With these girls, you just don't know. Two nights ago, we had only six girls at practice. I'm always wondering who will be sick, who is at soccer practice, who is at travel ball practice. It's just killing me. They just aren't intense.
"But, who knows, maybe they'll rally."
Maggiore has every reason to be positive entering Saturday's first round. His team is loaded with talent and has won championships at almost every level, including a sectional title at the Junior level last season.
Whether it is the distractions of other sports, vacations or just the nature of adolescents, Maggiore's team seems to have lost some fire from a year ago. It nearly was beaten in the District 15 tournament by Crystal River, and had it not held on for consecutive one-run victories (1-0 and 4-3), it would have been the first Inverness Senior squad in four years not to capture district and sectional titles.
Maggiore is hoping for a major reboundfor the team, which carries five starters from the Citrus High varsity, including Times All Citrus/Hernando selection Tabitha Schruffer.
"Talent-wise, this could be the best team we've had in years," Maggiore said. "I don't know if they're hungry enough. ... But, talent-wise, I think this could be the first team to win this thing (the state title)."
While success at the state level has come easy for Inverness Little League's softball programs the past five years, it has not been nearly as smooth a ride for the other county programs, especially in baseball.
Bo Trenary hopes his Crystal River Senior All-Stars will change that trend when they travel to Jacksonville for the Section I Senior tournament. His team has been here before (at the Major and Junior levels), but, according to Trenary, always was at a disadvantage against more mature, more experienced teams.
That has changed this year, he says. Like Inverness, his team is stocked with some of the area's best high school talent, including a four-man pitching stable (Will Bleakley, Caleb Goodman, Eric Stewart and Clayton Trenary) that gave up four runs in three consecutive wins on the way to the district title.
"I think we're at a competitive level now compared with the other teams," Trenary said. "We're all at the level we are going to be size-wise and strength-wise. So, I don't think anyone will overpower us."
Another veteran team of sorts in the Inverness Junior Softball All-Stars, which kept a nucleus of four players from last year's section champs (the rest moved to Maggiore's team) and clinched the league's second consecutive district title. Like the Seniors, the Inverness Juniors are led by solid pitching and an impressive infield. But unlike their older counterparts, the Juniors also have hit, pounding out 42 runs in four district tournament games.
The Crystal River 9-10 Softball All-Stars and Central Citrus Major All-Stars will be making first appearances in Section I tournaments.
Crystal River's 9-10 All-Star team was the first from the area to secure a district title, with an 8-5 win against Dunnellon on July 6. Unlike many in the division, Crystal River developed defensively, allowing 16 runs in four games, compared to 38 by Dunnellon .
Crystal River will travel to Chumukla (near Pensacola) for the 9-10 Sectional tournament. Unlike the rest of the divisions, the 9-10 Baseball and Softball tournaments do not extend beyond state.
One that does is Major Baseball, which may be the most famous division in youth sports. The end goal for every team is a trip to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa. The first-time team from Central Citrus begins its chase at the Section I tournament in Shady Hills (near Hudson).
Host Crystal River will receive a first-round bye in the five-team tournament and plays the winner of Saturday's game between Tallahassee and Central Florida, at 6 p.m. Sunday.
"I feel that any team that has made it this far can win it," Central Citrus manager David Hoggard said. "We're very capable of winning the tournament. We have strong pitching, strong bats and we play good as a team."